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May 14, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Mariners didn’t do enough damage against C.C. Sabathia, bullpen when given the chance

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Look, I watched the game as well and I know that Charlie Furbush didn’t get the strike calls he needed in that seventh inning. I know that plate umpire Jerry Layne had a rather interesting strike zone for most of the night and wasn’t thrilled by the interpretation on that obstruction call in the fourth.

But hey, folks. Welcome to Yankee Stadium.

The rule employed here over the years by many a visiting team — and many of them much better than the Mariners — has been a simple one. If you need an umpire’s call to go your way to win, then you probably are not going to win a game at this ballpark.

In other words, yes, the Mariners losing 4-3 here to the Yankees might be linked directly to some non-strike calls against Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano when facing Furbush in the seventh.

But more importantly, the Mariners stranded 11 men on base. They did not get a hit with a runner in scoring position tonight. The only run-scoring hit they had with a man on base — other than a Raul Ibanez homer — was a double by Kyle Seager in the third.

They had the bases loaded in the fourth and didn’t score. They left a man on second in the third and the fifth.

The Mariners had two on in the second inning and came away empty.

All that was against C.C. Sabathia, who had to throw 112 pitches to get through 6 1/3 frames.

“I thought our guys did a nice job of fighting him and making him work and doing some things,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “But we never really had that knockout blow there to really separate.’’

And really, if the Mariners do separate at that point, anything umpire Layne calls or doesn’t call becomes rather moot. Instead, the game was left just a little too close and the Yankees capitalized.

Another key issue in the game was Wedge pulling Hernandez after six innings with his pitch count at 97. Turns out, Hernandez tweaked his back making a throw to second base in the sixth inning and that’s why he later left the contest early.

It had nothing to do with the collision Hernandez had with Lyle Overbay in the fourth, in which the pitcher was called for obstruction. Hernandez actually wasn’t hurt on that play, or so he told us. It was only the back — a recurring issue — that caused him to come out.

“I didn’t want to take any chances sending him back out there,’’ Wedge said. “I wanted to send him back out there. He wanted to go back out there. But I wasn’t going to take any chances.’’

Hernandez says he understands the decision to pull him.

“The whole game, I was good and didn’t feel anything,’’ said Hernandez, who allowed only five hits and struck out eight. “After I made that play…I’d turned around too quick and all the weight from my right side went to the left side. I felt a pinch in there. Nothing bad, nothing serious. I’ll be ready for the next one.’’

As for the obstruction, we sent a pool reporter to talk to the umpiring crew about the call. Remember, Overbay was out by several feet before any contact with Hernandez occured.

Here is what Layne said, interpreting rule 7.06 of the MLB Rule Book.

“Any time the runner is obstructed before first base, the ball is dead. He’s awarded first base, and any runner that could be forced is awarded [his base]. That’s why [Wells] was given second base. What had happened was when they went to field the ball, the pitcher and the first baseman were going toward the bag. There was a second there when neither one of them knew who was going to cover, in my opinion. I don’t know that, but that’s what it looked like. But the person that didn’t receive the ball, which was the pitcher, obstructed the runner going to first base. Per that rule, any time it happens before first base, the ball is dead. That clarifies it. Eric [Wedge] said it didn’t happen before first base, and that’s what the discussion was about.”

Third base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt also added that it didn’t matter how far away the runner was from the base when the obstruction occured:

“We have a clarification in the baseball rules interpretation manual. Only one fielder can be in the act of fielding the ball. Now that fielder [in this case] was the first baseman. So that’s where the obstruction came in because there were multiple fielders fielding the [throw]. Now there’s a couple of different kinds of obstruction. But on the type of play like this, which was a ground ball, it doesn’t matter if the runner is 89 feet away when he gets obstructed or if he’s one inch away. If he is obstructed before first base, the ball is dead and he is awarded first base.”

So, that’s the way the crew interpreted it. In the end, they get final say.

And in the end, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the seventh inning when Furbush helped give up the lead after not getting the calls.

“That’s just the way it is, you know?” he said. “You try to make pitches as best you can and keep your team in the ballgame.”

And he felt he’d made the pitches, especially in the Gardner plate appearance that preceeded the tying double by Cano.

“Obviously, I would have liked it, that’s for sure,” he said of the non-strike call. “But it is what it is.”

Yes it is. Even after that, the Mariners had their chances with two on and none out against David Robertson. But Michael Saunders went down swinging in an ugly at-bat and then Justin Smoak lined into a double play turned by a perfectly positioned shortstop Jayson Nix.

“I was just glad I hit one up the middle,” Smoak said. “I didn’t expect someone to be standing there.”

Again, that’s the kind of night it was. And to beat the Yankees in this ballpark, any visiting team has to have a bunch of stuff going for them beyond umpire calls.

The Mariners didn’t tonight, good as they played for the most part.



Comments | More in postgame analysis | Topics: c.c. sabathia; raul ibanez; felix hernandez; jerry layne


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